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Kaunas Vilnius Europe: A Tale of Two Cities Introducing Kaunas and Vilnius: The Two Largest Cities in Lithuania You’ve probably heard all about the allure of European cities like Paris, Rome, and Barcelona.
But have you considered venturing off the beaten path to discover the charm of smaller towns like Kaunas and Vilnius in Lithuania? These two cities each have a unique character waiting to be explored.
Kaunas, the country’s second largest city, has an energetic buzz as a center of culture and nightlife along the banks of the Neris River.
Vilnius, the capital, enchants visitors with Baroque architecture, bohemian cafes, and a UNESCO World Heritage old town that feels frozen in time.
Although only 100 kilometers apart, Kaunas and Vilnius each offer a glimpse into a different side of Lithuania with a character all their own.
If you’re looking to discover the heart of the Baltics, a tale of two cities awaits you in Kaunas and Vilnius.
Comparing the Histories of Kaunas and Vilnius Lithuania’s two largest cities couldn’t be more different.
Kaunas, the country’s temporary capital from 1919 to 1940, has a small-town charm compared to the cosmopolitan capital of Vilnius.
Kaunas, located at the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers, has a vibrant cultural life and well-preserved interwar architecture.
Check out Laisvės Alėja, the main pedestrian street lined with shops, restaurants, and cafés.
The Devil’s Museum, displaying over 3,000 devil-themed artworks, is delightfully quirky.
For panoramic views of the city, head to the Žaliakalnis Funicular or the Christ's Resurrection Church.
Vilnius, on the other hand, is known for stunning baroque architecture, a charming Old Town, and a progressive arts scene.
Walk through the medieval Gediminas Tower and Vilnius Cathedral, then stroll down Vilniaus gatvė, popping into art galleries and hipster coffee shops along the way.
Užupis, a self-declared independent district, epitomizes Vilnius’ creative spirit with open-air art installations, avant-garde galleries, and hip bars.
Despite their differences, Kaunas and Vilnius share an unforgettable beauty.
Exploring the diverse landscapes, cultures, histories, and futures of these two Baltic gems will leave you captivated.
A visit to one is simply not enough - you'll have to see them both.
Contrasting the Cultures and Atmospheres of These Two European Cities Kaunas and Vilnius have been rivals for centuries.
While Vilnius emerged as the capital of Lithuania, Kaunas has an equally rich history.
A Tale of Two Capitals For a time, Kaunas served as the temporary capital of Lithuania.
When Vilnius was occupied during World War I, the government moved to Kaunas from 1919 to 1940.
Kaunas blossomed during this period, gaining landmarks like the Presidential Palace and Vytautas the Great War Museum.
After WWII, Vilnius again became the capital.
But Kaunas remained an important city, especially for culture.
It hosts one of the largest festivals, Kaunas Jazz, and is a UNESCO City of Design.
Distinct Architectural Styles The cities have distinct architectural styles.
Vilnius is known for Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical buildings like Vilnius Cathedral and Gediminas Tower in the Old Town.
Kaunas has a well-preserved modernist center, as well as Gothic and Renaissance architecture like the House of Perkūnas.
A Rivalry No More While Kaunas and Vilnius were once rivals, today they cooperate.
Only 100 km apart, many Lithuanians commute between the cities.
High-speed rail makes this trip in just over 30 minutes.
The cities have also teamed up to promote tourism, realizing that visitors will likely visit both.
Kaunas and Vilnius each have a unique charm, so together they offer a fuller picture of Lithuania’s history and culture.
The rivalry has transformed into an alliance, giving travelers the chance to experience the best of both cities.
The Best Sights and Attractions in Kaunas vs.
Vilnius Kaunas and Vilnius, two of Lithuania’s largest cities, offer a glimpse into the country’s complex history and culture.
While only 65 miles apart, the atmosphere and traits of these cities contrast in intriguing ways.
Culture and Arts Vilnius exudes an artistic flair, from its charming Old Town with baroque architecture to its many museums housing works by famous Lithuanian artists.
As the capital city, Vilnius attracts creatives and cultural events.
Kaunas has a grittier, more industrial feel, though in recent years its cultural scene has blossomed.
Contemporary art spaces like the Kaunas Picture Gallery and Kaunas Art Residency have put the city on the map.
Nightlife and Food By night, Vilnius comes alive with hip bars, clubs, and restaurants along the cobblestoned streets of Užupis, the city’s bohemian district.
Cuisine reflects cosmopolitan influences, like nouvelle Lithuanian fare or Asian fusion.
Kaunas nightlife revolves around student bars and pubs along Laisvės Alėja, the main pedestrian street.
Hearty Lithuanian comfort food like cepelinai (potato dumplings) and pink soup rule here.
Outdoors and Activities Both cities offer escapes to nature.
Vilnius is a base for trips to Trakai National Park and its scenic lakes.
Outdoor enthusiasts in Kaunas frequent Žalgiris Arena or head to Pažaislis Monastery, a 17th-century architectural gem in a forest park.
But for an authentic glimpse of daily life, just stroll the streets, grab a coffee al fresco, and people watch.
The differences in pace and personality between these two cities ultimately reveal the diversity of life in Lithuania.
How to Travel Between Kaunas and Vilnius in Lithuania, Europe Kaunas and Vilnius offer two very different experiences for visitors to Lithuania.
While Vilnius is a charming capital city with stunning Baroque architecture, Kaunas has an edgier, grittier vibe as Lithuania’s temporary capital during the Interwar period.
If you only have time to visit one city, here are some of the highlights in each to help you decide.
Kaunas - Old Town: Wander the cobblestone streets of the historic old town, lined with cafes, shops, and galleries in restored buildings.
Check out the historic Kaunas Castle, St.
Michael the Archangel Church, and the House of Perkūnas.
- Laisvės Alėja: This mile-long pedestrian street lined with trees is perfect for people watching.
Grab a coffee or beer at one of the many cafes and just soak in the atmosphere.
- M.
K.
Čiurlionis National Museum of Art: This museum celebrates Lithuania’s most famous artist, showcasing his paintings, drawings, and musical compositions.
The building itself is also an architectural landmark.
- Ninth Fort Museum: A sobering museum documenting the atrocities of war, located at a former WWI fortress used by the Nazis as a concentration camp in WWII.
A memorial to the victims stands on the site.
Vilnius - Old Town: One of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Europe, with architectural landmarks like Vilnius Cathedral and Gediminas Tower in the Upper Castle.
- Užupis District: Vilnius’ “Montmartre”, an eccentric neighborhood filled with art galleries, studios, and cafes.
Don’t miss the quirky Užupis Angel statue.
- Museum of Genocide Victims: A museum documenting the oppression of Lithuanians during the Soviet occupation, located in the former KGB headquarters.
A chilling look into the country’s history.
- St.
Anne's Church: A stunning example of Gothic architecture, St.
Anne's Church is considered a masterpiece of the Flamboyant Gothic style.
Despite their differences, both Kaunas and Vilnius offer a glimpse into Lithuania’s complex history and culture.
No matter which city you choose to visit, you won’t be disappointed!

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